Tuesday, August 21, 2007

House Rules for Young Adults

I'm bringing this question up from the comment box at my other blog:
"I have a newly-turned 18yo at home now ... we are struggling with "rules" for her ... she IS an adult (just ask her LOL), but she lives in our home ... what kinds of rules do you have for your adult children living at home?"

First, let me say that some people choose to exercise more control over their young adult kids than we have done, and to those people I say: More power to you if it works for you. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

I also want to add that in dealing with our young adult children, I didn’t have anything to model from. When I was 18, I left home and moved to another state. So I kind of had to feel my way. But by the grace of God, I think what we did worked for us, because we have adult kids we are proud of (and one young lady, who is like a part of our family, who lived with us for a couple years, whom we’re proud of too).

I have explained to our kids a number of times through the years, whenever they questioned that I want to know anything or have rules, that people sometimes board with a family or with a single person who has a house to share. I lived in several such situations as a young adult; and then a relative lived with my husband and me, when our first children were little. I tell the kids that when an adult lives in another's home, there are usually rules, whether they are rules discussed beforehand, or simply "rules of courtesy". Sometimes there are unspoken rules in the host’s mind which the guest or tenant doesn’t pick up on, which begin to cause friction. Communication is key.

Here are four areas of expectation I usually cover in some way, though I don’t sit each child down formally when they turn 18, nor do I have it all written on a sheet:
1) Hours
2) Expenses
3) Clean-up and service
4) Influence and Respect

Hours: Our hours have varied over the years and they vary from family to family. I don’t call it a “curfew”, per se. But I do tell my adult kids, when they are living at home, that if they won’t be home by a certain time, then they need to call me to let me know when they think they’ll be home. At different times, this time has been midnight or 1 a.m. Perhaps 11 p.m. would be more practical, so I don’t get wakened. (We do have the advantage that Ed sleeps through the phone and I go right back to sleep.) If they think they’ll be out playing cards at a friend’s or sibling’s place until 2, say, and it turns out they are going to spend the night instead, they are to call me (yes, again), and let me know that. I don’t want to wake up at 4 a.m. or 7 a.m. to an empty bed or no car, wondering if they had an accident. As far as specifically where they are, yes, I like to know, but I haven’t always insisted, depending on age, gender, etc. They do have cell phones (and I’m not afraid to use them, sometimes just to say, “Hi. Are you having a good time? “). And I have made sure to ask for their friends’ phone numbers in case of emergency. We have occasionally reminded our kids that if they ever need a ride for any reason, to call us any time. I’ve heard them tell each other that, too.

Expenses: If you had a boarder, you’d discuss up front how much you expect them to pay you for rent and utilities. We’ve never asked our children to pay us to live at home (but they’ve always been struggling through college, not just working full time and living at home). However, I do share with them my expectations for certain things. They are welcome to eat our meals with us, but they have a part time job and pay for their own auto insurance, gasoline, and spending money. Another family may not require this, but again, my point is communicating expectations. Along these lines, there may be hidden expenses you may want to discuss. If someone consistently takes a 20 minute shower, this is a problem for me because of my water bill, so I am going to communicate with them about it. If a long shower is important enough, maybe they can contribute to the water bill.

Clean-up and service: As part of a family – or even as part of a household – we need to clean up after ourselves and also contribute something. When our children were commuting to college full time and working 20 or more hours a week, I didn’t give them specific chores; but they still helped with getting someone to an appointment now and then, babysitting if we were going away for a weekend, mowing the lawn now and then, wherever a need popped up that they could fill. Keywords here are contribution and communication.

Influence and respect: If there are younger kids at home, the older kids (excuse me, “adults”) can have a powerful influence. While I want to keep the lines of communication with my adult children wide open, I might ask them to discuss some subjects at a time or place where the younger kids can’t hear the discussion. Language is also a consideration. My kids didn’t come home taking God’s name in vain and using really bad language. But they would sometimes come home with words that would not be acceptable for my younger kids to use with their friends. The older kids need to understand the influence they have and that they must respect our requests. (The younger kids, too, might need to understand that they can’t do, or even say, all that their older siblings do or say.)

Respect also means that if they want to be treated like an adult, then they need to behave with adult courtesy toward their family. Most of the time, they haven’t needed to be reminded to be respectful toward us, as long as we aren’t trying to tell them how to live every detail of their lives, or displaying anger toward them for their choices.

If you would like to share your own strategies or thoughts on any of this, you are most welcome to leave comments…even if you want to disagree with me, that’s okay, too.


Mary B said...

Love your articles. Found you through Ester. You have a very common sense approach to teens. I looked at our seven and found myself at loose ends trying to get simple rules followed and especially get the older ones to help but not boss the younger ones. At the same time I read Love Languages for teens. The author suggested looking ahead to hot button issues like driving, dating, handling money, jobs etc. He suggested having a plan/idea about which rules you felt you might need and tell your teens before they turn 13.
It helped as long as we made sure they understood the rules well. One thought wait till 16 to date meant till he was done being 16 and didn't bother to ask--- just built some anger.
Also worth considering: we did write them down but don't post them except when we need to review.

Micki said...

MMM - I'd gladly go back to my youth and I'd want you to adopt me. Your "rules" make total sense. Too bad "kids" don't appreciate it until they are trying to be fair to their own
young adults.

ukok said...

This is a very comprehensive post and one that has given me a good deal of 'food for thought' as I read it. My daughter is 16 and soon she will be an 'adult child', I know that the issues you outline, are going to be things that we need to work out between us. Communication is paramount if things are going to work out.

Interesting post!

Anonymous said...

It is nice to get some insight as to how other parents handle things when an adult child lives at home. Our oldest daughter just turned 21 and has always lived at home, even while in college. She certainly doesn't want to be under our roof but cannot afford to move out. We have struggled with whether or not she should have a set time to be in; she doesn't think she should have a curfew and we don't think we should be awake all night wondering where she's at and when she's coming home. I had always been opposed to making comments like "This is my house; if you don't like the rules, get out" because when I heard those words as a young adult, I did just that before I was ready financially and I moved into a dive in a bad neighborhood. For safety reasons, I don't want my daughters doing that. However, I'm realizing more and more that I can't let my own fears dictate how things are handled in our home so I recently told my daughter that she doesn't get the advantage of living rent-free AND also coming and going as if there is no one here at home worrying about her. She doesn't get to have the best of both worlds. The situation truly does require communication and compromise but when so many of her friends parents have no rules for their adult children, we constantly look like the "control freaks".

jimmy said...

My situation is different my 21 year old just graduated with BA in mechanical engineering, and has a part time job and wants to move out on his own with a girl friend and is madly in love with she comes from a different back ground, a high school drop out, no job, and has a broken home, and different ethnic background. Our son wants to take with him the bedroom furniture and force the girl on us and accept her disrespect to us, granted we are very religious, disciplenarian
and refuses to come to the house and display total freedom and walk inapropriately in the house. Do you have any idea how to manage this economical and financial situation where he wants to take the family car. and so on. Jimmy, my email

Skippy said...

Thank you, Mary, for taking the time to share this. An hour ago I was seriously considering running away. I'm a widowed mom of a 20 y/o son and a 17 y/o daughter. At almost 5:00 pm, they are both still sleeping. Typical. Yes, I've tried from sweet talking to yelling, and pulling covers off to a leaf blower. I'm trying to keep my house clean, do repairs myself, and figure out our declining finances all as a leg amputee at 50 years old. Asking for their help doesn't work; demanding help is pointless. Friday at 2:00pm I demanded they help load packed boxes from the garage to my car for a garage sale. In the end, my son 'ran away' because 'I'm unreasonable' only to be back on my sofa this morning...and now in his bed sleeping. I'll give this one last try. However, I'll be borrowing from your words and actually creating a written contract for both to sign. I have extra lock sets and I know how to change them. And I will.

New Orleans

Margaret Mary Myers said...


I hope it works out well for you!

Margaret Mary

Anonymous said...

First off, we are not here to serve you just because you're
our parents. Second, it's not the 1900s anymore so stop living in it and stop telling people what you did when you were a young adult, its irrelevant. Third, most of us work and go to college or school so no you have no right to tell us what to do because we do more then you. I'm not picking up your crap because it's your crap. The only reason we deal with you is because it cost to much to live on our own. Your our parents, the only thing you should be focused on is letting us focus on (our life and future). You don't get to tell us what to do and when to do it. How do we become independent if we are dependent, that means your bills are your bills, my bills are mine. That also means your house problems are your not mine. last, how can we move out if we can't save money to move out, your our parents meaning take care of us if we need help, you shouldn't have become parents if you can't take care of a 18 year old. The funny part, bad parenting means bad children.

I moved out already and I will live under a bridge before I move back in with my so called parents. If you except something in return for parenting, you need to be shot.

Margaret Mary Myers said...

I did not appreciate the comment about "need to be shot", especially in today's climate. However, I let your comment through anyway, because up to that point, I agreed with some of your points. I don't think parents should, in most circumstances, expect their kids to "serve them" (you mentioned that you didn't want to pick up their stuff & pay their bills). I do think anyone living with someone else should contribute something to the chores and/or finances, as they are able, and this should be discussed. If you can't discuss things, it makes it hard.

Parents are human & get caught up in their own lives, or repeat the mistakes of their parents or try to avoid the mistakes of their parents, or have issues they need to deal with, or challenges that catch them off guard. Sometimes maybe we are even selfish for awhile. There are so many mistakes we can make as parents. Believe me, my parents did, and so have I, as a parent. At this point, I appreciate all my parents did do for me, in spite of the mistakes, and my kids feel that way about me too.

Did you say you are 18? I moved out when I was 18, and I wish you all the best! Keep on working and/or going to college (I think you mentioned both), and show your parents, but most of all YOURSELF, that you can be safe and successful. Be careful out there, and get help from someone you know you can trust, if you ever need it. Blessings. MM

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an angry person anon is! I know someone, who at 18 bought their own home and did not have a great job. She is making her payments, repairing her own home. She has tried taking in boarders, who sat around and didn't contribute. Realized they were of no value to her & she was being used. Picking up other people's crap? Deal with it honey! We all have to do it. I picked up after my kids when they were toddlers. I pick up after others daily, it's my job. It's called sharing responsibility. When your parent is purposely throwing litter on the floor or coffee table while watching t.v., not holding a job, expecting you to cook & clean while they party with friends, sleeping in, playing video games and demanding you do everything to maintain the household, you can complain. If you feel your parents world is too demanding, pick up,pack up, set your own rules in your own house! My house, my rules. You are entitled to make your own rules in your own home. Word of caution.....landlords are entitled to certain expectations too. So if you want everything your way, buy a house & do things your own way.
Need to be shot? Follow through with that thought & you'll get free accommodations in prison, but also be prepared to get up early, work hard for pennies. You can spend those hard earned prison pennies on the few luxuries that the prison will allow. Everywhere in life their are consequences for your action or lack there of.